AGNOSTICISM AND CHRISTIANITY.
If that is not a matter about which. evidence ought to be required, and not only legal but strict scientific proof demanded by sane men who are asked to believe the story—what is? Is a reasonable being to be seriously asked to credit statements which, to put the case gently, are not exactly probable, and on the acceptance or rejection of which his whole view of life may depend, without asking for as much "legal" proof as would send an alleged pickpocket to jail, or as would suffice to prove the validity of a disputed will?
"Infidel authors" (if, as I am assured, I may answer for them) will decline to waste time on mere darkenings of counsel of this sort; but to those Anglicans who accept his premises. Dr. Newman is a truly formidable antagonist. What, indeed, are they to reply when he puts the very pertinent question:
"whether persons who, not merely question, but prejudge the ecclesiastical miracles on the ground of their want of resemblance, whatever that be, to those contained in Scripture—as if the Almighty could not do in the Christian church what he had not already done at the time of its foundation, or under the Mosaic covenant—whether such reasoners are not siding with the skeptic,"
"whether it is not a happy inconsistency by which they continue to believe the Scriptures while they reject the Church"
Again, I invite Anglican orthodoxy to consider this passage:
the narrative of the combats of St. Antony with evil spirits is a development rather than a contradiction of revelation, viz., of such texts as speak of Satan being cast out by prayer and fasting. To be shocked, then, at the miracles of ecclesiastical history, or to ridicule them for their strangeness, is no part of a scriptural philosophy (p. liii-liv).
Further on. Dr. Newman declares that it has been admitted
that a distinct line can be drawn in point of character and circumstance between the miracles of Scripture and of church history; but this is by no means the case (p. Iv). . . . Specimens are not wanting in the history of the Church of miracles as awful in their character and as momentous in their effects as those which are recorded in Scripture. The fire interrupting the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, and the death of Arius, are instances in ecclesiastical history of such solemn events. On the other hand, difficult instances in the Scripture history are such as these: the serpent in Eden, the ark, Jacob's vision for the multiplication of his cattle, the speaking of Balaam's ass, the axe swimming at Elisha's word, the miracle on the swine, and various instances of prayers or prophecies, in which, as in that of Noah's blessing and curse, words which seem the result of private feeling are expressly or virtually ascribed to a divine suggestion (p. lvi).
Who is to gainsay our ecclesiastical authority here? "Infidel authors" might be accused of a wish to ridicule the Scripture
- ↑ Compare Tract 85, p. 110: "I am persuaded that were men but consistent who oppose the Church doctrines as being unscriptural, they would vindicate the Jews for rejecting the gospel."